Rural Broadband Providers Back Trump’s Move to Scrap Net Neutrality

Net neutrality may be one of the most intangible issues in the public arena. Hard to explain, hard to understand, hard to get too worked about about. Yet it’s often presented as an epic battle of good versus evil in the Star Tribune and other media outlets.

A move to undo federal regulations meant to uphold an open, free internet for all users has pitted providers like Comcast against online giants like Facebook — and millions of their customers — in a debate about protecting the First Amendment in a high-tech world.

But the more you read, the more the issue boils down to one simple question: Do you favor more government regulation or less government regulation of the internet?

Big internet suppliers support the regulatory rollback being implemented by Federal Communications Commission Chairmain Ajit Pai.

Comcast, the leading internet provider in the Twin Cities, supports Pai’s proposal, along with AT&T, Verizon and other major telecommunications companies. Comcast has said it opposes “onerous utility-style regulation” for internet providers while also vowing it will never block, throttle or hinder consumers’ online activity. Comcast and Pai back what they call a regulatory “light touch.”

Big government liberals like Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) come down in favor of the Obama administration’s heavy-handed regulatory approach.

Critics fear that without strong FCC oversight, service providers have the leeway to purposely slow access to services from other companies that may be competitors.

“The internet service providers are the only ones who stand to gain from this,” said U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, a Democrat who has been a champion of protecting what’s known as “net neutrality,” or an open internet. Franken said he wants a system that allows people to access content ranging from the New York Times and Fox News to a blog from a student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth at the same speed.

Franken may be for the little guy, but he’s also on board with the big guys–Google, Netflix and other huge corporations that support more internet control.  And that puts Franken squarely at odds with rural broadband providers, the truly little guys that support the Trump administration’s effort to deregulate the worldwide web.

Sjoberg’s Inc., a Thief River Falls company that serves about 6,000 customers in northwest Minnesota, supports the concept of net neutrality but backs the move to rescind the 2015 regulations over concerns that they’re a burden on small internet providers in rural areas.

President Dick Sjoberg said that the new regulations have brought on extra expenses for attorneys, consultants and borrowing fees, and led to a climate of uncertainty.

“It’s just so onerous — the cost to everybody is so great — and at the end of the day [the expense] trickles down to the consumer,” Sjoberg said.

Turns out net neutrality may not be that complicated after all.